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Persistent workplace aggression affects everyone and ultimately, leaders are responsible for stopping it. However, more often than not, leadership fails to intervene.

One of the reasons for this is the leaders are often not adequately trained nor do they have the skills needed to deal with persistent workplace aggression. Luckily, this is an easy fix. Leaders can get training and learn the skills necessary so they can effectively cope with persistent workplace aggression. Organizations need to invest in training and skill development to prepare leaders to deal with workplace aggression and to protect their workers.

The problem with leadership becomes more complicated when leaders do not intervene because of their vestment in the dysfunction that is persistent workplace aggression. Persistent workplace aggression is empowering for the aggressor, but also for leadership. In these situations, the leader feels needed by the workers including the target, bystanders, and the aggressors. They are controlling the environment by not intervening. 

Leaders are frequently fed information about their workers from the aggressors. This information is mostly about the target's behavior which is most likely inaccurate. As such, leadership bonds with the aggressor and aligns with them. They believe the aggressor has the best interest of the workplace at heart. The leader fails to see how they are being used by the aggressor. Rather they see that getting information on their subordinates is an important part of leadership and it makes the leader feel as if they are being a good supervisor. They are running a tight ship because they think they know what is going on. They reward the aggressor by not intervening, thus reinforcing the aggressor’s bad behavior and re-victimizing the targets.

Targets and bystanders consult with the leader providing them with a purpose and a false sense of pride in their leadership style because they listen to their workers.  It makes the leader feel important, needed, and reinforces their self-esteem. The leaders provide advice, suggestions, and even possible ways they could intervene to the targets and bystanders. Yet, to maintain the culture, the leader has no intention of following through on the promises they made to the target or bystander. A leader who fails to intervene effectively is very similar to an orchestra conductor. Every movement of their baton dictates each workers' behavior and the conductor orchestrates an environment that reinforces either good work habits or bad.

Another reason that leaders fail to intervene because often they are the workplace aggressors. Therefore, intervention would mean that they would have to change their own behavior and for many leaders, this is just too hard. Aggressive leaders are just like other workplace aggressors, they struggle to reflect and improve their own workplace behavior. They also get empowered by being aggressive. Thus, helping to maintain the culture of persistent workplace aggression.

If you or the organization you work for is experiencing persistent workplace aggression or need training on this issue, please contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there.